NEW YORK Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. ran a full-scale direct-reduced iron (DRI) production test for two weeks in March at the companys North Shore iron ore mine in Minnesota.
The Cleveland-based company produced 30,000 tons of DRI-grade pellet and will continue to test different methods using a variety of ore blends through the rest of the year, chairman, president and chief executive officer Joseph Carrabba said during an earnings conference call with analysts. "We are working closely with the companies who manufacture DRI facilities to conduct performance evaluation of our DRI pellet samples."
Cliffs last year identified its North Shore and United Taconite mines in Minnesota as having the potential to produce DRI-grade products. "We found North Shore at this point in time to be the low-capital-cost option," Carrabba said.
He told analysts that Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp. has "led the way" with its planned 2.5-million-tonne-per-year DRI facility in Louisiana, which has "strengthened peoples belief" in the financial viability of DRI production.
Cliffs is talking to domestic mills that could be potential customers of DRI pellet, but the company still needs to work on test samples throughout the year, Carrabba said.
"While we are optimistic about our DRI technology and the long-term impact it could have on the U.S. steelmaking industry, one concerning trend that we continue to see is the surge of steel imports," Carrabba said. "This is (affecting) the competitiveness of our customers, and we urge Congress to support tax policies that would level the international playing field for steel producers."
A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Steel First.